Lost and seeking

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I came back from the Dominican more drained and spent than ever before. I had no energy to do anything, let alone serve or be intentional with others. The continual overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and isolation felt so foreign that I didn’t recognize myself. I felt alone and confused and lost in a way that I have never felt in my life.

I’ve always wanted to be the more generous person in a friendship. I want to give more, buy more, do more. But being so overwhelmed made that nearly impossible. I did, I tried. I tried to continue, but it was wearing me out. I was already so spent.

I felt like God was trying to teach me that my friends would be faithful. That they would love me even when I had nothing to give. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t want to learn it. I couldn’t imagine letting my friends be there for me when I couldn’t reciprocate the support and intentionality they were offering.

I had fallen into believing this lie that I needed to love my friends more. [Don’t get me wrong, we are called to love people deeply, but it shouldn’t be a comparison] I felt like if I didn’t love them well enough that they would not value my friendship any more. That it wouldn’t be worth it and that they would stop being friends with me. Prior to the Dominican, I continually gave and gave and gave and I was fine with that. The fear of being a burden somewhat fueled my desire to serve. But coming back from the Dominican I was tired and lonely and at a lower point in my life than I had ever been. I had nothing to give. No energy to give much physically or emotionally. And I felt valueless because of that. I felt worthless without the ability to love and serve like I wanted to.

Serving had become something I found my identity and value from. My identity had been found in the quality of my friendships and my ability to love and serve well. When I couldn’t do that, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to ask for help knowing I couldn’t give it. I didn’t know how to receive knowing I was incapable of reciprocation.

I was talking to my cousin about this and what all I was going through and he reminded me of my aunt’s sister, Holly, who has severe MS. He reminded me how her husband, Brad has selflessly served and loved her throughout their marriage. How it’s such a beautiful picture of unconditional love. My cousin and I talked about how we both aspire to be the Brad, to serve others in their brokenness. And I shared with him how I wanted so badly to be the Brad, but I felt like the Holly right now. So drained I didn’t even have enough energy to take care of myself, and how I felt so valueless in that. But as we talked, I thought about Holly’s situation and how her MS does not define who she is as a person. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and her value has nothing to do with her physical capabilities. She is still an incredibly joyful and loving person.

God has been teaching me that my identity is not found in what I do, (praise the Lamb), but my identity is found in who I am in relation to Christ. I am His BELOVED child. I got caught up in my service that when I no longer had the energy to serve, I didn’t know who I was. It was like I lost a part of myself, when in reality my identity has never changed. I am, still, and will always remain His child.

I think God has been challenging me to stop idolizing my service. Finding my identity and value in how much I give will never satisfy. I’m learning to be vulnerable and ask for help. It’s hard and humbling. And I continually feel like I’m fighting the feeling of depression and oppression right now. An ever-present feeling of being burdened and weighed down. But it’s in this time that I feel like God is teaching me so much. And it’s a process. I’m still learning, that just like my friends will love me through my neediness, so will God. His love is not conditional and is not based on my ability to seek him out and be intentional. I had no energy to do anything, including read my Bible sometimes. I’ve been so overwhelmed with processing stuff from the Dominican, yet God continually shows me his steadfast faithfulness. He shows me who he is again and again and again in answering my prayers and continually blessing me. With all the instability in my life, I’ve learned that He is my rock. He is my anchor in the storm.

Sometimes we go through rough times in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re drowning and fighting to stay afloat in the storm. Sometimes we need people and can’t give much in return. And that’s okay. All I have to say is keep fighting. Keep your head up. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Others have been there too. It’s okay to ask for help. That’s what I’m learning. Friendships that glorify Christ are give and take. My value is not found in how much I can give, but the fact that as a Christian, I am a part of Christ’s family. That’s what I’m holding onto. The earth was never meant to be my home. So, I feel a little lost and life feels a little foreign, but you know what my consolation is? My citizenship is in Heaven. We were never meant to feel 100% at home here because this isn’t our eternal destination. We have hope in a future with no suffering.

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Do you trust me?

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People have been asking me if I’m excited to go to the Dominican. Yes, I am excited. But my excitement is masked by a slight terror. I’m terrified to leave everything I’ve known and go to a foreign country that speaks a foreign language to eat foreign food for 10 (foreign?) weeks.

There has come a point where I’ve had to decide if I truly trust the Lord. I’d love to say the choice came easily, but it really didn’t. It’s an obvious choice, but it’s not an easy one. Obvious because of course the Lord is trustworthy. He created me. Doesn’t that make him worthy and capable to fulfill my needs? To be my friend when I’m lonely? The answer is yes. My head knows it but my heart fears full dependence. To fully depend upon the Lord is something I’m definitely learning.

As I was thinking about what I’m afraid of – how to prepare and get ready, not knowing anyone, not being totally sure what I’ll be doing there, fear of having no freedom –

I started praying about it and i felt like God was clearly saying one thing to me-> “Do you trust me?” Not an accusation, just a question.

Do you trust me?

I started to seek out in scripture verses that related to this, Jesus Christ being my sustenance and here is what I found.

 

Psalm 18:2-3: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

When Paul is being afflicted by a thorn in his side, he asks the Lord three times to take it away. But to keep Paul humble, the Lord does not answer Paul’s request to take the thorn away. Paul then writes in Philippians 4, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound… I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul recognized that it was through the Lord that he received his strength. He chose to be content.

Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

The director at the camp I’ve worked at in the past says that God allows our inadequacies  to increase in order to become more dependent on the Lord.

Trust is a choice. That’s what it comes down to. Even though life can be terrifying at times, his word says that He is my rock and my stronghold. I can do anything with his power that strengthens me. He brings peace. He supplies our needs. Our God is with us wherever we are! All we have to do is trust Him and be willing to go where he calls us.

Wrestling.

Wrestling.

Last week I was wrestling with a decision I had to make. I was recently accepted to be an intern to serve in the Dominican Republic this upcoming summer. (So exciting right?) Well I found out through an email during a really stressful week so I never quite had time to process or commit to it. I got the email and the next step was to sign some forms and get them sent to the ministry I will be serving with. Before I did that, I wanted to know if I could come back for this wedding of one of my good friends. The wedding fell about halfway through the summer and also happened to be during a really busy time in the Dominican. I found out that I couldn’t go to it and I was disappointed.

I was still wrestling with feeling uneasy and not feeling peace about going to the Dominican. It was partly because of not being able to come back for the wedding, but mostly because I hadn’t sat down and prayed and sought the Lord in my decision to go. I had made a decision to go, but I hadn’t fully committed. When I found out I couldn’t come back for the wedding, that was the tipping point for me. I just felt really uneasy about the whole thing. I ended up talking to my brother about it and he suggested I ask again if I could come back for the wedding, explaining how much it meant to me. [side note- I’m a really loyal person and weddings are a big deal to me] He helped me write out an email to send. I sent the request to go to the wedding again and got a reply that baffled me. The response was about what I considered sacrificing for the Lord meant and what I thought Luke 14:25-30 meant. At first I was taken aback by the in-depth questions, but then I realized that I did need to answer these questions. If this was what the Lord was calling me to, I should be willing to dive into this and study what the Lord says.

Sacrificing is an interesting subject. I think sacrificing for the Lord is giving up what I value in order to serve the Lord and to value what He values. Reading about the Biblical definition of sacrifice, certain articles talk about sacrifice being more all encompassing, meaning that sacrificing requires complete surrender to God’s will.

Concerning Luke 14:25:30 – I’ve read these verses before, but never really intently looked to see what Jesus meant when he said that. At first, I was confused that Jesus would ask his disciples to hate his father and mother, brother and sister because in other places in the Bible like Ephesians, it mentions honoring your father and mother and a verse in 1 John that talks about loving your brother. I did some research and found that what Jesus was saying, was not exactly to hate your family, but only to love them less then you love the Lord. So basically, our love for God should be greater then our love for others. Jesus isn’t demanding just our physical service, but he demands our hearts and our minds. Most of the time, I think that we can love both God and family and friends, but we should always be first loyal to the Lord. When deciding whether or not to commit to something, we should first decide if we are willing to sacrifice what it is going to take.

As I realized this, it sunk in. This means living in surrender to God’s will. It’s when we are asked to sacrifice that we can truly see where our value lies. I should be willing to sacrifice everything to serve the Lord. So I continually prayed “God I surrender. I surrender. I surrender.” And I meant it. I didn’t know what it looked like, but I was surrendering.

Okay, so I figured it out right? No, this is when the real wrestling started. How do I know what God’s will is for my life? When I first applied to go to the Dominican, I was incredibly excited. But when I found out I got to go, my excitement faded and fear took hold of me. It was like the devil was attacking me. Reminding me of how hard it would be and all the things I was giving up to go. I prayed and prayed that God would show me His will. I was willing, but I wanted to know for a fact that going to the DR was God’s plan for me.

The time came and I had to send my reply to the staff in the DR. But the time had also come for me to decide, was I willing to give up my own plans for the summer (such as going to this wedding) for the Lord? Would I submit to His will even if it wasn’t clear exactly what that was?

But still I wrestled. I was willing to do what the Lord had, but how was I supposed to know God’s will. I talked to my sister, Meagan, and said one of the reasons I didn’t feel peace was because I didn’t know if this is what the Lord wanted me to do. And she asked me “Well why wouldn’t He want you to go?”

Wow. Okay. I couldn’t think of one reason God wouldn’t want me to go. Every door had been opened for me to go. I had spent so much time in prayer asking that God would give me peace instead of seeking out an answer in His word. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that God gives peace, but it’s definitely in His timing. My heart wasn’t in it, but Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We shouldn’t always trust what our heart is telling us.

After Meagan asked me why God wouldn’t want me to go, I found these verses – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” “and the gospel must first be preached to all nations,” and “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Over and over again he says go and tell others the good news. That’s what I will be doing this summer. Evangelizing in the Dominican.

The question was how was this not God’s will?? I wanted Him to give me this feeling that it was right. But I didn’t need that; all I needed was my Bible because it’s literally HIS word.

As I read the verses about what we are commanded to do, I felt more peace. I sent the email stating that I was committed regardless of whether I could come back for the wedding. Immediately after sending it, I got excited again. It was at that moment that I fully committed. I had prayed and thought a lot about what the summer was going to take, and I decided that I could do it, but only with the Lord’s help. I would trust and abide in Him. I surrender.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we’re feeling, whether that’s fear, uneasiness, or maybe just feeling unequipped. All I needed to do was focus on His word and his instruction. He doesn’t say “Go and make disciples of all nations  if you feel led to” or “If you feel qualified then go preach to the nations.” He just says “Be my witnesses. Go and make disciples. Preach the gospel.” He is all-powerful, he doesn’t need us to be too. I heard a saying once- God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called – and I couldn’t agree more.

I would never be able to do this on my own. I’m moving to the Dominican for two and a half months. I’m not typically an adventurous person. Nor do I enjoy doing things out of my comfort zone. But it is in my weakness that HIS power is made strong! He is glorified through my weakness and fears, because that is where he shines! I’m no longer scared because God’s got me.